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The road to alcohol addiction usually begins gradually. Whether teen or adult, the first sip of the first drink produces a pleasurable experience as dopamine is released by the brain.  Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasurable feelings which follow good food, sex and other pleasure causing activities.  Due to the effect of dopamine, the brain urges the user to repeat the behavior to reproduce the pleasurable experience.

Over time, as larger amounts of alcohol are ingested and with increasing frequency, the brain reaches a point where a reduced amount of dopamine is produced.  In a frantic search for the dopamine effect, the drinker increases the amount of alcohol in an effort to achieve the same pleasurable feeling which occurred the first time and is thus able to build a tolerance to the alcohol even though they are drinking it in ever increasing amounts.

Eventually, the alcohol is necessary for the drinker to just get through a normal day; they no longer have the ability to control their drinking behavior and addiction begins. As the disease progresses, the main priority of the drinker becomes the acquisition of alcohol and preoccupation with a good supply. Not wishing to be discovered or deliberately hiding the fact of their addiction, many drinkers stash large quantities of alcohol in unlikely places where it is unlikely to be discovered by others. Sometimes they will empty the contents of soda bottles or other innocent looking containers and refill them with alcohol so they can drink in plain sight of others.

An alcoholic person often has several drinks before a social occasion, even one where alcohol will be served, so that they can load enough alcohol into their body to see them through the event without appearing to over-imbibe. When choosing a drink in public it is more likely to be a cocktail containing hard liquor rather than a beer or a glass of wine which has a lesser kick.

In the beginning stages of alcoholism many drinkers are quite good at hiding their addiction from family members and friends. When the condition finally becomes apparent and they are approached about it, they often completely deny the addiction or if they do admit to it will blame it on any number of causes, none of which make any sense.

Symptoms of alcohol addiction

Alcoholism can creep up on a person. Eventually though, people will notice strange behavior, slurred speech or other signs of alcohol addiction. When confronted about their addiction, many alcoholics will completely deny it and may become angry or blame other circumstances for their addiction. Family members are usually the first people to become aware that something is amiss. There are a number of warning signs to watch for and they include the following:

  • Inability to control amount consumed
  • Blackouts or memory loss
  • Prefers drinking to other activities
  • Irritable when alcohol is unavailable
  • Drinks alone or in secret
  • Cannot control craving to drink
  • Continually drinks larger amounts
  • Continues to drink despite negative physical and emotional effects

Alcoholism causes physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, tremors, hallucinations, convulsions and vomiting.

Risk factors

There are some risk factors for alcohol addiction which make the condition more likely to develop. If a person has a family history of alcoholism or suffered neglect or abuse in childhood the odds for addiction increase. People with depression or anxiety are also prone to alcohol addiction and the earlier in life it begins the more entrenched addiction becomes.

Consequences of alcohol addiction

As addiction continues, every aspect of life seems to be affected. Family relationships deteriorate; it is extremely stressful living with an alcoholic, always worrying about their health and safety, wondering why they haven’t come home and waiting for the dreaded knock at the door or phone call with news of an accident. Friendships are neglected, unless the friends enable the addiction, and social engagements are off the calendar. Attendance at work is intermittent due to hangovers and unemployment becomes a real possibility. Sleep patterns become disturbed and appetite is usually lessened considerably causing more health problems. Even personal hygiene can go overboard — a person may neglect to shave or shower and pretty soon they are looking unkempt. Some turn to crime to finance their addiction and there may be trouble with law enforcement.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol can endanger not only the drunk person driving but also the lives of innocent pedestrians and other drivers. The financial penalties for drunk driving are quite severe, plus there is usually loss of a driving license.

Finding help

It is obvious to see that alcohol addiction takes its toll on a person’s life which is why finding help is so important. If you or your loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, help is available. Call Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help for more information on alcohol addiction and where to find further assistance.

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